There’s alot kids (and adults!) can learn about painting with watercolor, but these 7 principles are fundamental.
While ‘learning by doing’ can be very effective, it helps if kids understand a few key concepts going in. This gets them out of the starting gate a little quicker and with a lot less frustration.
First, check out my TIP #18: The 4 Essentials of Watercolor for the basic supplies your students will need. Then read the seven points below for what kids need to know to be successful with watercolor.
7 principles of painting with watercolor:
1. Leave any areas you want to be white untouched.
Let the white of your paper be your white ‘paint’.
2. Keep your pencil sketches very light.
Pencil lines will show through your paint because watercolor is a transparent medium. When painting with watercolor, remember to always press lightly with your pencil.
Then, you can go over some or all of your drawing with the edge of a Magic Rub Eraser (affiliate link) to lighten it even more. Simply drag it gently over your paper to leave just a hint of your drawing visible as a guide for painting.
3. Work from light to dark.
You can make a light color darker by layering more color on top of it after it dries. But it’s much more challenging to make a dark color lighter. Keep in mind that colors appear darker while wet but become lighter as they dry.
4. Let layers dry before painting on top of them.
Unless you’re working wet-on-wet, it’s best to be patient and let your paint dry completely between layers. A hairdryer can be helpful if you’re short on time.
5. Be careful not to overwork your painting.
Colors can become “muddy” very quickly if you overwork them. Watercolor has a reputation for being an “unforgiving” medium for this reason. Knowing when to stop and leave well-enough alone is an important skill to develop for painting with watercolor.
6. Rinse your brush well before changing colors.
To rinse your brush, press it gently on the bottom of your water container a few times. Then wipe it a few times on the inside edge of the container.
Avoid swishing or tapping, which is guaranteed to splash dirty paint water where you don’t want it. (It’s funny how loud swishing seems to be the default brush-rinsing program for kids until you teach them otherwise.) Good brush rinsing should be completely silent.
7. Clean your brushes and paint sets well before putting them away.
Nothing starts a painting session off on the wrong foot like opening your paint set to find a sea of muddy, sticky colors and a sticky brush. Help kids develop the habit of always leaving a paint set the way they’d want to find it.
Do not store brushes inside the paint sets. If a paint set is tipped on its side while colors are still wet, the paint will run. Then, even a perfectly clean brush will become a sticky mess!
To clean the colors of your paint set, simply place a drop of water on each “dirty” color. Then gently blot the color with a damp brush. After that, use a baby wipe or damp paper towel to clean the inside of the lid.
Finally, be sure to leave paint sets flat while they dry. This prevents wet colors from running out of their pans and all through the set.
an inspiring quote:
“One’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
By its very nature, learning changes us. Once we’ve learned something, we are no longer the same as we were before.
It can be exciting for kids to think of learning this way. Everything we learn, no matter how small (like how to rinse your paintbrush), helps us grow.